Hungarians expected to grant third term to nationalist PM Orban in election

Saul Bowman
April 9, 2018

In all, 199 seats in parliament are up for grabs. That was the highest turnout figure at that time since at least 1998. In contrast, the turnout was only 61.7 percent in the last election, in 2014, which gave him a massive victory.

Orban claims that the opposition - collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros - wants to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country", threatening its security and Christian identity.

Preliminary results were expected after 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) Sunday night.

While voters were no longer allowed to join queues at polling stations as of 1700 GMT, those already in line will be allowed to cast their ballots, a process that can take hours at the busiest polling stations.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's ruling Fidesz party has pointed to the high turnout as a sign that Hungarian democracy is healthy, but the increased turnout could give Orbán something to worry about: numerous voters waiting in line in Budapest were young, and young, city-dwelling Hungarians do not tend to support the prime minister.

Following an acrimonious campaign in which the rightwing nationalist prime minister projected himself as a saviour of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, all opinion polls had put his Fidesz party well ahead.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cast his vote in the parliamentary election, saying the ballot is about "Hungary's future".

If he wins, as is likely, Mr Orban has promised to cut income tax and pass pro-growth economic policies.

He has campaigned heavily on his unyielding anti-migration policies, although voters say they are more concerned with poverty, government corruption and the country's underfunded health care system.


"Only a dramatic outcome of the election would force a significant shift in the direction of policymaking", Barclays said in a note.

"It's for sure that a low turnout would only have favoured Fidesz" and its highly committed voters, said Gabor Gyori, a senior analyst at political research institute Policy Solutions.

Rebranding itself as a moderate "conservative people's party", its leader Gabor Vona has called for a change in government and railed against Mr Orban.

On Origo.hu, a formerly independent website now owned by government allies, stories promoted Orban while also focusing on migration with headlines like "Migrant gangs fought in England", "They can't stand it anymore in Sweden: They've had enough of migrants", and "A migrant in underpants beat a German retiree half to death".

Experts say the large turnout in Hungary's parliamentary election could "dramatically change" the country's politics.

The opposition denies Orban's claims on migration.

Opposition parties have urged Hungarians to vote tactically for the opposition candidate with the best chance to defeat the Fidesz candidate in the 106 individual districts - but it's not clear how much impact that will have.

A woman said she didn't vote for the ruling party.

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